He said to him, “Walk through the streets of Jerusalem and put a mark on the foreheads of all who weep and sigh because of the detestable sins being committed in their city.””
Ezekiel 9:4 NLT
On Ash Wednesday many Christians attended a service during which their heads were marked with a cross created from the ashes of last year’s palm crosses. It is as a reminder of our mortality in being created from dust and to that same dust our humanity must eventually return. I may feel a sense of permanence and even longevity, and yet I am fragile and but a passing moment in the face of eternity.
Lent offers a period of recollection for each Christian in considering the character of their Christian discipleship. It’s all too easy to assume my life is my own and that I am master of all I survey. Yet, in reality I am no more permanent than a flourishing grass, enjoying but a brief season before returning to the soil (Psalm 90:4-6). God, however, is permanent and indeed my permanence is directly related to the degree to which I respond to the gospel message announced by Jesus. Lent leads me to the sorrow of Good Friday before the rejoicing of Easter Sunday. Through these weeks I’m invited to take stock of who I choose to be in the earth. God invites me to follow the way of Jesus.
We are called to serve God, which can prove challenging in a culture that has lost sight of and confidence in him. Our mission is to explain the faith we hold dear by the way we live, as much as by the words we use. It’s easy when people feel marginalised to create ghettos of like-minded people, and church can become one such ghetto if we forget that we are called to mission; that is, living out our faith in the public sphere, working for justice and the rule of love. Throughout the world, fellow Christians endure violence from intolerant regimes, and we must pray and work in solidarity for our sisters and brothers.
For which causes and values are you prepared to struggle or sacrifice?
Lord God, may all those who are suffering for your name around the world find the strength and courage to remain faithful in their witness for you.